Top 3 practical used cars for £18,000: Peugeot 3008, Mercedes C-Class Estate, Skoda Superb Estate
"I need a practical car for golf clubs and luggage now I've retired. What will £18,000 buy me?"
Not so long ago, an estate car was the default choice for motorists who need to carry bulky loads. Today, SUVs and people carriers give you far more choice, including some absolute bargains if you buy pre-owned.
If you're prepared to drive something a little older, you'll be amazed at what you can pick up for relatively little money. A used Ford Galaxy MPV, Mercedes E-Class Estate or Land Rover Discovery will prove as versatile as most will need. A budget of £18,000 is enough to secure something rather newer. We've picked three of the best practical used cars to show you just how much variety there is.
The stylish choice: Peugeot 3008
For: Sharp design inside and out, newest car hereAgainst: Unusual driving position, rivals more agile
Peugeot turned a real design corner when it introduced the 3008 in 2017. The car straddles the boundary between SUV and people carrier, and its proportions give it a very distinctive style while maximising interior space. It's by far the newest of our three choices – you'll find a 20,000-mile 1.6-litre HDi diesel example n mid-range Allure trim for around £17,500.
The 3008 looks very modern inside, and although its small, low-mounted steering wheel feels a little odd at first, you quickly get used to it. There's comfortable seating for five, and a 591-litre boot that expands to 1,670 litres if you fold the rear seats flat. It's not the most exciting car to drive but the diesel engine's pulling power makes for a good tow car. We particularly recommend the automatic gearbox, which feels better than the manual.
3008 owners tend to be very satisfied – it won our 2018 Driver Power satisfaction survey outright, and faults reported tend to be relatively minor niggles.
The premium choice: Mercedes C-Class
For:Upmarket badge and swish, comfy interiorAgainst:Not the biggest boot, unrefined diesels
A rival to the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant, the Mercedes C-Class Estate has an upmarket image and plenty of style. Despite this, there's still plenty of smooth C200 petrol and economical C220d diesel examples available for under £18,000 – we found a 45,200-mile 2015 C 200 auto for £16,980, and a 42,000-mile 15-reg C 220 d Sport Premium with a full leather interior for £18,000.
As befits its premium status, the C-Class has the highest quality interior of our three cars, and its design is tidy and modern. It's the most responsive of the three to drive, too – examples with the biggest 19-inch alloy wheels have a noticeably firmer ride than with smaller wheels, but the difference is clearest when travelling at low speeds on bumpy roads. The 490-litre boot is the smallest of our three, though, and rear seat legroom is tight for really tall passengers.
Despite 18% of owners reporting at least one fault, the C-Class finished in a decent 27th place out of 75 cars featured in our 2018 Driver Power survey. Electrical faults are the most commonly reported.
The practical choice: Skoda Superb
For:Huge spec and versatility for the moneyAgainst: Dull to drive, interior not very exciting
Of our three sub-£18,000 used cars, the Skoda Superb stands out as offering the most for your money. As the flagship of the Skoda range, you'll not find it wanting for quality or equipment, either. A 65-plate 2.0-litre TDI diesel estate in lavish SE L trim is available for under £18,000, complete with Volkswagen Group's impressive dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Don't expect much driving excitement and, compared with the others, the Skoda looks a little plain inside. The build quality is impressive and the controls are easy to use, and there's loads of interior space too. This is particularly the case in the back, where passengers really can lounge in comfort. It also has by far the biggest, most versatile boot of the bunch – its 660-litre luggage compartment expands to 1,950 litres with the rear seats folded away, and will take loads up to 3.3 metres in length.
Skoda came sixth overall out of 26 brands in our 2018 Driver Power survey. The Superb wasn't featured individually, but has a strong reputation for quality and reliability.